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White v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 31, 2018

OLIVER WHITE, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Oliver White alleges that Defendants violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (“ADAAA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act (“DCHRA”). (ECF No. 1-1). Defendants have moved for dismissal of all claims under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), alleging that Defendant Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA”) is entitled to sovereign immunity and that Defendant Metro Transit Police Department (“MTPD”) is merely a department within WMATA, not a separate legal entity. Plaintiff has also filed a motion for leave to amend his complaint to add claims for hostile work environment and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), which WMATA opposes. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend his complaint is GRANTED. Defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is also GRANTED as to Plaintiff's claims under the ADA/ADAAA, the DCHRA, and § 1983.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff has been employed as an officer at MTPD since 2005. Plaintiff suffers from a medical condition characterized by low blood circulation and impotence. He takes prescription medication-including injectable medication-for his ailment. (Compl. ¶¶10-13, 18 ECF No. 1-1). On October 25, 2015, MTPD placed Plaintiff under investigation following an allegation of steroid use. (ECF No. 1-1 ¶14). Plaintiff denied the allegation at an interview with representatives of MTPD's Office of Professional Responsibilities and Inspections, informing them that he only used a prescribed injectable medication. (ECF No. 1-1 ¶¶15-18). After the interview, MTPD required Plaintiff to undergo a fitness for duty and psychological evaluation and to meet with a counselor. (ECF No. 1-1 ¶23). On December 19, 2015, Plaintiff was required to undergo a random urinalysis, and on December 28, 2015, he was cleared of the allegation of steroid use. (ECF No. 1-1 ¶¶25-26). He did however receive a 15-day suspension for failing to report his use of prescription drugs, as required by MTPD policy. (ECF No. 1-1 ¶¶27-28). Plaintiff alleges that he suffered from esophagitis caused by stress during this period. (ECF No. 1-1 ¶31).

         Upon Plaintiff's return to work on January 26, 2016, MTPD required him to undergo a random urinalysis, and another on May 14, 2016. (ECF No. 1-1 ¶¶32, 36). Plaintiff further alleges that his supervisor acknowledged receipt of a discrimination charge from the EEOC on March 30, 2016. (ECF No. 1-1 ¶35). He also alleges that on one occasion his supervisors told him that they were going to “fuck with [him] bad.” (ECF No. 1-1 ¶34). Plaintiff filed the original complaint in the Superior Court of the District Columbia on March 8, 2017. (ECF No. 1 at 1). The case was removed to federal court. (ECF No. 4).


         A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) “presents a threshold challenge to the court's jurisdiction.” Haase v. Sessions, 835 F.2d 902, 906 (D.C. Cir. 1987). The court “presume[s] that a cause lies outside [its] limited jurisdiction, ” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994), and accordingly, “the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing the court's jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence.” Morrow v. United States, 723 F.Supp.2d 71, 76 (D.D.C. 2010) (citing Moore v. Bush, 535 F.Supp.2d 46, 47 (D.D.C. 2008)). While a court is not limited to the factual allegations in the complaint when ruling upon a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, see Jerome Stevens Pharms., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005), it must accept those allegations as true. Attias v. Carefirst, Inc., 865 F.3d 620, 627 (2017) (noting that consideration of a 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss “start[s] with the familiar principle that the factual allegations in the complaint are assumed to be true”).


         The amendment of pleadings is governed by Rule 15(a), which provides that “[t]he court should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2), and instructs district courts “to determine the propriety of amendment on a case by case basis.” Harris v. Sec'y, United States Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 126 F.3d 339, 344 (D.C. Cir. 1997). Justifications for denial of leave may include undue delay, bad faith, repeated failure to cure deficiencies in a pleading, undue prejudice to the opposing party, and futility of amendment. Id. at 344 (citing Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)). The non-movant typically bears the burden of persuading the court to deny leave to amend. Nwachukwu v. Karl, 222 F.R.D. 208, 211 (D.D.C. 2004). Here, WMATA has not (1) identified any evidence of bad faith, or (2) provided any specific contentions to support their claim that amendment would be futile. Moreover, since the court will afford WMATA the opportunity to fully brief the newly added claims via an additional motion to dismiss, there is also no showing of prejudice at this early procedural stage. Accordingly, the court grants Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend the complaint.

         In addition to the two new claims under Title VII, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint alleges six claims against WMATA: two (Counts IV and VI) under the DCHRA; three (Count I for declaratory judgment, Count III for money damages, and Count V for money damages) under the ADA/ADAAA; and one (Count II) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] For the reasons set forth below, the court finds that WMATA is (1) not subject to claims brought pursuant to state law, (2) immune from claims brought under the ADA/ADAAA, and (3) not a “person” within the meaning of § 1983 and therefore ineligible to be sued under that statute. The court also finds that since MTPD is a department within WMATA and not a separate entity, it cannot be sued separately. Cf. Fields v. D.C. Dep't of Corr., 789 F.Supp. 20, 22 (D.D.C. 1992) (“It is well established, however, that agencies and departments within the District of Columbia government are not suable as separate entities.”) (citing Byrd v. District of Columbia, 1991 WL 336038, 119 U.S. LEXIS 12775 at *7 (D.D.C. Sept. 12, 1991); Roberson v. District of Columbia Board of Higher Education, 359 A.2d 28, 31 n.4 (D.C. 1976)); see also Brown v. Metro Transit Police Dep't, 87 F.Supp.3d 145, 146 (D.D.C.), aff'd, 637 Fed.Appx. 3 (D.C. Cir. 2016) (construing suit against MTPD as suit against WMATA). Accordingly, all claims against MTPD are dismissed as a matter of law.

         A. DCHRA CLAIMS

         WMATA is the creation of an interstate compact (“the Compact”) signed by Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. It is therefore an instrumentality of those jurisdictions. Ndzerre v. Wash. Metro Area Transit Auth., 174 F.Supp.3d 58, 64 (D.D.C. 2016); see also Sanders v. Wash. Metro Area Transit Auth., 819 F.2d 1151, 1154 (D.C. Cir. 1987). As other courts in this district have noted, the Compact itself clarifies that “one signatory may not impose its legislative enactment upon the entity created by it without the express consent of the other signatories and the Congress of the United States.” Lucero-Nelson v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 1 F.Supp.2d 1, 7 (D.D.C. 1998) (citing OPIEU, Local 2 v. WMATA, 724133, 139 (D.C. Cir. 1983)); see also D.C. Code § 9-1107.01 (2017) (noting that WMATA is “exempt from all laws, rules, regulations and orders of the signatories” in relation to transit services rendered). Plaintiff's Amended Complaint contains no indication that Maryland and Virginia have consented to suit under the DCHRA. Taylor v. WMATA, 109 F.Supp.2d 11, 18 (D.D.C. 2000) (“It is well established that WMATA is not subject to the DCHRA because WMATA is an interstate compact agency and instrumentality of three separate jurisdictions.”); Sampson v. WMATA, No. Civ. A. No. 04-1767, 2005 WL 3276277, at *3 (D.D.C. 2005) (“Because there is no indication that Virginia and Maryland have consented to the application of District of Columbia law… [it] does not apply to WMATA.”). Accordingly, Plaintiff's DCHRA claims are dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

         B. ADA CLAIMS

         1. M ...

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